EDWARD’S DUKE OF EDINBURGH AWARD
King promotes youngest brother on his 59th birthday for ‘years of service to the crown’
THE King finally made his brother Prince Edward the Duke of Edinburgh yesterday on his 59th birthday as a reward for his loyal service to the crown.
Unusually, however, the title will not be hereditary and on his death revert to the sovereign. Edward’s wife, Sophie, currently the Countess of Wessex, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, has become the Duchess of Edinburgh.
Their son James, Viscount Severn, 15, will now be known as Earl of Wessex – his father’s previous title – but the couple’s daughter will remain Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor.
A royal insider said the long-awaited move was in recognition of Edward and Sophie’s ‘decades of service to the Crown’.
The prestigious title of Duke of Edinburgh, which was first created in 1726, was given to Prince Philip by Queen Elizabeth when they married in 1947.
Edward was exceptionally close to his father and in his later years took on much of his work with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme.
When he and Sophie married in 1999 it was announced that the dukedom would pass to Edward after Philip’s death.
In a recent interview Sophie recalled how Philip asked his son two days after their engagement in 1999 if he would consider becoming the next duke, saying they were ‘stunned’ at the request.
Edward said it was a ‘lovely thought’ but a ‘bittersweet’ role because it would only come to him after both his parents had passed away and probably should have gone to Prince Andrew, the elder of the two sons not in direct line to the throne. That was two years ago, however, and there has been much to-ing and fro-ing behind
‘They’re proud to continue Prince Philip’s legacy’
the scenes on the issue ever since. In keeping with the Letters Patent issued when King George VI gave Philip the title in 1947, Charles inherited the Edinburgh dukedom when Philip died in April 2021 but did not use it.
However he became gravely concerned that the most senior title associated with the capital city of a leading nation in the United Kingdom would be passed on to an ever more junior branch of the family line.
At the time he was offered the title, Edward was seventh in line to the throne. He is now 13th and will only slide further down the order of succession over the years when the Prince and Princess of Wales’ children grow up and go on to have families of their own.
The fact that this was happening against a backdrop of Scottish nationalism only exacerbated Charles’ fears.
One source was quoted as saying: ‘Edinburgh won’t go to them [the Wessexes] as far as the Prince is concerned.’ Publicly the Wessexes took the issue on chin, Edward telling the BBC that it had been a ‘pipe dream’ of his father’s and that it would ‘depend on whether or not the Prince of Wales, when he becomes king, [will] do that.’
But Charles’s sudden about-turn did not go down well publicly. Many felt it was disrespectful to his late father’s wishes and failed to acknowledge how hard Edward and Sophie had worked on behalf of the Queen, particularly following the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes acrimonious departure as fulltime working royals in 2019.
Edward has taken on a number of his father’s patronages and he and his wife have become stalwarts of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards Scheme, founded by Philip in 1956.
One source close to the King told the Daily Mail yesterday that he was a man who ‘didn’t like to be rushed’.
The ‘Edinburgh issue’, they said, was one he knew he had to deal with, but only when he was ready.
Sources stressed the timing of the announcement had ‘nothing to do’ with developments this week regarding the titles of Harry and Meghan’s children, Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet, as such announcements are normally made on a Royal Family member’s birthday.
The Mail understands that after Edward’s death and the Duke of Edinburgh title reverts back to the sovereign, it will ‘most likely’ be given to one of William and Kate’s children – probably Prince Louis – when they older.
Like other members of the Royal Family, Edward had a number of titles conferred on him when he married. His other Scottish title is the Earl of Forfar. He will remain Earl of Forfar, Buckingham Palace said, although will use his more senior title of Edinburgh.
His son James will become The Earl of Wessex and Forfar when Edward dies.
The new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh made their first appearance in the city whose name they now bear yesterday when they attended an engagement at the City Chambers to mark the first year of the conflict in Ukraine.
They also greeted well-wishers on Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement: ‘The new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh are proud to continue Prince Philip’s legacy of promoting opportunities for young people of all backgrounds to reach their full potential.’
To grant the title to Edward, Charles will need to issue a new Letters Patent – a document from a sovereign issued under the Great Seal of the Realm.
But the changes were swiftly updated on the Royal Family’s website yesterday morning, just minutes after the official announcement.
Other dukes push their own agendas. Edward’s a spare who just gets on with it
The pointed words of a Royal Family friend on hearing yesterday’s big news
THE news has been decades in the making. In creating his younger brother Duke of edinburgh, the King has fulfilled a plan first announced on the morning that Prince edward was preparing to marry Sophie Rhys-Jones at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
Over the subsequent years, this couple have got on with their royal duties, supporting the Sovereign and quietly helping to keep the royal show on the road, even as other younger sons have done their best to derail it.
So royalists everywhere will be happy that the earl and Countess of Wessex have now received their long-awaited elevation to Duke and Duchess. Last night, in a dig at both York and Sussex, one friend of the family said: ‘Other dukes might always be pushing their own agendas, whereas that has never been edward’s style. he’s a “spare” who just gets on with it.’
Within royal and charity circles, people will be particularly pleased for Sophie edinburgh, as she now becomes. As Countess of Wessex, she has been a popular, hands-on patron of her various charities and was extremely close to the late Queen.
During the privations of Covid and following the death of Prince Philip, it is said that the Queen drew much comfort from having her daughter-inlaw and her two youngest grandchildren close by on the other side of Windsor Great Park. The Queen, it is said, admired her unshowy dedication to royal duties – and non-royal ones, too. During the pandemic, the new duchess was spotted working below the radar in a Covid food kitchen.
The Queen’s fondness was reflected in numerous small but significant gestures over the years. In 2012, she appointed her daughter-inlaw as vice-patron of her Diamond Jubilee Trust and watched as Sophie used it to champion the fight against avoidable blindness across the Commonwealth.
In 2015, when faced with the decision of whom to send to a very awkward royal funeral – that of Richard III, recently unearthed from beneath a Leicester car park – the Queen despatched the Countess of Wessex.
however, the origins of yesterday’s announcement go back even beyond edward and Sophie’s wedding day in 1999. This was a decision that stemmed from Mediterranean sunshine and carefree days on the beach more than 70 years ago – the last time that Britain had a Duchess of edinburgh.
The title was given to Prince Philip as he was about to marry Princess elizabeth in 1947. Our late Queen adored what some called her ‘edinburgh years’: That short spell until her accession to the throne in February 1952.
The newlyweds loved creating a family home for themselves and their two tiny children at Clarence house. And when the Royal Navy posted the duke to the Mediterranean fleet in Malta, the duchess went, too.
BY day, she enjoyed the freedom of driving herself to the shops or to picnics by the sea (for the first time in her life, she actually carried her own money).
By night, there was dancing at the Marsa Polo club and the hotel Phoenicia, where the band would always play People Will Say We’re In Love when the edinburghs walked in. Very happy days indeed.
People would often ask why the Queen never gave her husband the title of Prince Consort, as Queen Victoria did for Prince Albert.
One reason, I was told on more than one occasion, was that she very much liked Prince Philip exactly as he was as Duke of edinburgh, a permanent reminder of her days as a duchess; she did not want him being anything else.
By the time the couple’s youngest son was preparing to marry in 1999, the title had become synonymous with much more: The Duke of edinburgh’s Award and the Duke of edinburgh’s Commonwealth Study Conferences to name just two.
In advance of Prince edward’s wedding, the heralds at the College of Arms had been drawing up options for the usual weddingday title, based on the various spare dukedoms in the royal cupboard. I understand that the initial plan was to create him Duke of Cambridge. however, the Queen and Prince Philip had another idea.
Prince edward and his fiancee were asked if they would like to defer being duke and duchess until the edinburgh title was free once more (as it would be following the death of both parents). The dukedom of Cambridge would wait for another prince.
Besides, edward had already spent many years actively supporting the Duke of edinburgh’s Award in many different capacities and was clearly the chosen successor when it came to this particular aspect of his father’s work. he is currently both a trustee and chairman of the trustees of the Duke of edinburgh’s International Award Foundation. Sophie has also been a stalwart of the organisation.
In 2016, the Award celebrated its 60th birthday with a scheme called the Diamond Challenge. Sophie rose to that by training for several months and completing a gruelling 450-mile charity cycle ride from edinburgh to Buckingham Palace in just five days.
WHAT is most interesting about the King’s revival of the dukedom is that it is for one generation only. We are well used to life peerages, first created in 1958. Now Britain has a life dukedom. It means that the Duke’s son, James, will not become Duke of edinburgh.
he now takes on the courtesy title of earl of Wessex. Upon Prince edward’s death, he will also become earl of Forfar, a title the Queen gave her younger son in 2019 to reflect his strong ties with Scotland. The Edinburghs’ children have never used the ‘HRH’ styles to which they are entitled. Their daughter will remain Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor.
However, there is a touching added poignancy to yesterday’s news in that it is Lady Louise who has taken on the late Duke of edinburgh’s love of carriage-driving – and, indeed, all his ponies and equipment.
In creating this dukedom for a single generation, the King is sticking to his long-term vision of a ‘slimmed- down monarchy’ – one restricted to the immediate line of succession. he is determined to phase out the Victorian model of an ever- expanding proliferation of peripheral ‘minor’ royals.
Republicans might scoff at the irrelevance of titles in the 21st Century but as long as Britain chooses to remain a constitutional monarchy, they will be part of the royal furniture.
Their importance within the Royal Family is reflected in the continued determination of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to retain their own titles, despite leaving the royal fold. Just this week, the Sussexes have also made a point of explicitly stating that their children are to be known as ‘Prince Archie’ and ‘Princess Lilibet’.
The edinburghs could have done the same for their children long ago – but have chosen not to.
In receiving their new title, the couple have now acquired their own dance, too. Back in 1947, the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society commissioned a new reel in honour of the royal wedding. They called it ‘The Duke and Duchess of edinburgh’. It was, needless to say, a favourite of the late Queen.